What does it take to sustain a happy and successful relationship/marriage?
Although the differences between men and women have been much emphasized, there’s one thing that both sexes must do in a relationship: Rescue love. Relationships are happy where love is nurtured. They begin to fray around the edges when love is compromised, and they end when love is gone. What causes love to go away?
Many answers have been offered—boredom, routine, various distractions, outside obligations, fixation on work, wandering libido, lack of trust. But instead of dealing with such a long list item by item, there might be a simpler way. If you can rescue love every day, bringing yourself back to the place where love is, all the other problems don’t have a chance to grow.
To rescue love, you first must understand what it is. Love includes affection but is more than affection. It associates itself with sexual desire, kindness, compassion, altruism, and mutual regard. With those things in mind, many couples turn love into loving acts and loving feelings. But such efforts are the effect of love, not love itself. You cannot turn an effect into a cause. For example, if you find out that your partner has cheated, you have a reason not to love him or her. Trying to be nice instead of nasty won’t revive your love.
If you can discover how love works as a cause, you can rescue it every day.
Love as a cause goes beyond the individual. It’s transpersonal or as spiritual teachers say, transcendent. That’s not the same as mystical. To transcend means to go beyond. In this case, we want to contact love that goes beyond the ego. The ego is often put in charge of love. When love becomes what “I” want, then relationship is a negotiation between two selfish points of view. There’s nothing wrong with negotiating the everyday details of your relationship—who does the dishes, when to have sex, how to have sex, etc.—but love isn’t about trade-offs and what happens in bed.
Love beyond the ego has to be on a new basis. It’s not about quid pro quo, giving as long as you get to take. It’s mutual. It exists in a space between two people. The only way to be deeply happy in a relationship is to find that space every time you lose it. In this way, love goes beyond affection and being nice. Loving acts blossom naturally once you find the place in your own awareness that is love. Needless to say, becoming aware is a process, in love as in everything.
“If you can rescue love every day, bringing yourself back to the place where love is, all the other problems don’t have a chance to grow.”
Consider how relationships develop. We get along well with someone else who agrees with our point of view. We feel an intimate connection; we feel validated in their presence. Then the spell is broken. The other person turns out to have many opinions and beliefs where we don’t agree at all. At this point, the war between right and wrong starts and the road to unhappiness unwinds.
The very fact that you are intimately related makes it even more painful to find areas of disagreement. At the subtle emotional level you feel abandoned. The beautiful sense of merging with someone you love is shattered. At this point love is compromised. Both people feel the return of the ego, which says, “I am right. My way of doing things is the only way. If you really loved me, you’d give in.”
When the need to be right fades, we stop having so many grievances and resentments, which are the fallout of making someone else wrong. Instead of wasting time with the ego’s version of love, return to the place of love. To detach yourself from anger, resentment, and the sense of being a victim happens only in the space beyond ego. You can only find this space by devoting yourself to knowing who you really are. Leaving the ego behind is the same as the spiritual quest for the true self.
“Instead of wasting time with the ego’s version of love, return to the place of love. To detach yourself from anger, resentment, and the sense of being a victim happens only in the space beyond ego.”
When two people are on this quest, they are on the journey to a kind of love that can never be taken away. The differences between a man and a woman fade in the light of a shared goal that is bigger than any ego need or desire. Every day becomes both a rescue and a surrender. Not a surrender to another person’s ego, which can only feel like defeat. Rather, both partners surrender to the larger goal.
The ego’s path is much easier to walk and far more familiar. I know that someone is on the path of love when they ask the following kinds of questions about their relationship every day:
Which choice is more loving?
What will bring peace between us?
How awake am I?
What kind of energy am I creating?
Am I acting out of trust or distrust?
Do I feel what my partner is feeling?
Can I give without expecting anything in return?
These questions don’t have automatic answers. They serve instead to wake you up spiritually. They attune you to a process that is more than “me” and “you.” When you become devoted to that process together, you and your partner will accomplish what seems impossible: Your happiness will be as full for each of you as it is for the two of you together.